The idea of 'found footage' made popular by The Blair Witch Project has subsequently taken over the horror genre lately. It’s begun to leak into other genres too, from monster movies (Cloverfield) to superhero movies (Chronicle) to comedies (Project X). Now it has sunk its claws into the cop movie, with writer/director David Ayer – a stalwart of the cop movie having written Training Day, Dark Blue, Harsh Times and S.W.A.T. – using it to reinvigorate proceedings.
Patrolmen Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Pena) are partners and best friends working in the toughest district of South Central Los Angeles. Brian has a small camcorder that he brings with him everywhere for a college project, and he uses this to record his and his partners every move. Before long they cross paths with a very violent Mexican gang, who conveniently like to record their every move, too. It’s from these two angles that we watch their eventual head-on collision; one which Brian and Mike have no idea is coming.
Between the exciting car chases, house fires and shoot outs, we get a glimpse of the private lives of Brian and his new girlfriend Janet (Anna Kendrick, adorable) and Mike and his loving wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez, spunky), as well as the unbreakable bond between these two men who would do anything for each other. The natural rapport between Gyllenhaal and Pena is a rare sight in the modern cop movie, as they have real natural chemistry and don’t just feel like two actors who’ve been forced to work together.
Unfortunately, the downside comes from behind the camera, or perhaps the camera itself; while the found-footage format does work most of the time, there are occasions when the shaky, in-your-face aesthetic gets annoying. There are also times when you’ll be confusedly asking yourself 'Who is holding the camera in this scene?' which takes you out of the action completely. Fortunately, these issues are sporadic, and mostly fall to the wayside for the tense, climatic 20 minutes. End Of Watch may be uneven in parts, but it is also one of the most realistic portrayals of police work since 90’s TV show Cops.